Friday, July 5, 2024

Old and Decrepit

Not so very long ago, I was living in a place where it was pleasant each day to take bike rides and walks in the woods. My sister and brother-in-law, who were hosting me, are the types who answer the question about why do you climb, with something like 'because it is there.' Maybe. I once answered the question 'why do you sail,' rudely with 'why do you live?'

I used to canoe, and sail my little dinghy, and I used to ride my e-bike all over the place, but now I have a larger sailboat (again) and spend most of my time dealing with repairs of the sort which uncover all the shortcuts that the previous owners took. I have scars and soreness now from living on my side down under the cockpit for, like, two and a half days minus the time it took to lever myself out using main strength in parts not often used so that I could get the tools I didn't think I would need. And minus the time driving to and fro the boat store as I zeroed in on the right sized bolt. Some trips home to fabricate studs and look for other parts. 

And the largely unregulated traffic in the city makes me afraid to ride my bike. And the shortage of sailing hands makes me skittish about sailing. I installed an auto-pilot the day before the engine to prop-shaft connector flew apart noisily, and that was a relative pleasure. With my main crew away, I'd found that this boat won't hold its course with tiller tied off long enough for me to go below and pee. That was becoming a big issue. 

Now back to mountain-climbing and back to nature, I want to tell you in no uncertain terms that there's a better explanation for why you do such things as climb mountains. Beauty. That's the reason. Elemental beauty, which is that place where consciousness is born. The dawn of understanding. You can't even quite know it with too may other people around populating that dawn with noise. Which is a good enough reason not to climb Everest. As if I need [other] reasons.

As you know, gentle reader, I strongly disagree with Messrs. Kastrop and Faggin that their similar forms of analytical idealism are the most parsimonious systematizations of or for understanding. Calling it all mind [also] leaves beauty almost all the way out, just as materialism does. 

My parsimony is rather yin/yang. To shoehorn everything into one type of "primitive" needlessly complicates the whole deal. As primitives, percept/concept are my yin and yang. Quantum physics proves, as K & F also understand, that you can't call subatomic particles percepts. But those authors needlessly assign some sort of interiority to these percept/concept oscillations, in precisely the same way that they  assign interiority to conscious human beings. They and most other consciousness researchers are brain addled. Meaning that they mystify the brain as a kind of seat of consciousness, even as they spread consciousness across the universe. Their mystification involves a false sense that there is any interiority there.

Kastrop defines the term "alter," borrowed from the psychology of dissociative mental disorder, to explain my individuality as a [holographic?] chip off the old universal mental block. I am no such thing. I have a physical skin to define me, thank-you-very-much, and there is no interiority to it that is more interesting than blood and guts. 

My little brain doesn't replicate or store some rendition of reality. Nope! Why would I duplicate what exists all around me? I am unique enough just based on my lifelong trajectory among percepts and words and conversations, and I swear you can know me better than I know myself. I surely don't find that fact to be a threat. Call it a learning opportunity instead. I can learn about myself from you! Any secrets that I might keep are no more occult than to hide behind a wall. 

I do believe that my brain conceptualizes raw reality. Meaning that it composes nameable things, based on their similarities to other things. As Manzotti describes it, perceptions of actual things keep looping, never "stored" in memory by analog to what happens with silicon wafers. Once named, the concept is part of one's fluency. Language is a practice and not a function of storage and retrieval. Like dancing, it's a somatic practice.

This conceptual composition is made up of harmonization among disparate perceptions. The thing I compose is sometimes called an idea, though ideas are confused with inception. Inception starts with yin/yang and there is no priority there between concept and percept. 

Ideas are no more in my head than is some interior me. They can't exist but that they're shared. And then they are placed in a kind of shared abstract space, where it would seem that they always have been. There is, Virginia, no original primordial circle. 

Now it is my claim that art is the most human of possible pursuits. Those who know me will  freely tell you that I am no artist. Oh how I wish that I were! But there are few enough artists abroad in the world, and they don't usually make much of a living. I only wish that I could tell a good story, also a form of art, which I can sometimes do by way of speech, though I rarely have a quiet and patient enough audience. It would seem that my own speech is mostly useful for provoking others to tell their stories. That makes me happy in any case. I like to listen to the stories of others more than I like to tell my own, though some would call that a lie since I do, sometimes, talk a lot. 

A circle is an element of beauty. A "primitive," if you like. But a tree gets much closer to the essence of beauty. You somehow know, don't you, that a tree is a part of you, even as it is apart from you. For me a tree can be what you might call a religious experience. 

When I try to conceptualize to the level of philosophers whom I barely can read, that feels very much the opposite of communing with trees. Well, that's not entirely true. Like when I was reading atheist Richard Dawkins on the selfish gene, that felt religious to me. It's very hard to understand certain of his uglier thoughts. Like when he says a man is a man and a woman is a woman as decreed in the genes. He needs a dose of yin/yang up his yin/yang. 

I don't understand an angry god. Makes no sense to me. God is love. God is beauty. We are, each of us, alters of God, in a way. Just not in the way that Kastrup would have us be, since his ideal world is devoid of emotion. As do most philosophers, he calls it out among a list of things that go on in human and other minds. Trivial epiphenomena. It comes buried in a long list of such things.

Emotion is very much a part of the physical world. Emotion is key to free will. Free will is defined by interaction with the physical world, just as abstraction means to be removed from the physical world. An idea is an abstraction. Physical reality cannot be abstraction except by unnecessarily contorting our language.  There is no need for that. 

To understand is to make a match between physical reality and an "idea." When you manage to put the schematic into words, and when those words give you a measure of control over the physical material world, you may say that you've achieved a kind of understanding. 

But that sort of understanding will never be complete, and you will never rid yourself of the random impingements on the security of your control. Birds poop on the supercollider and fly into jet airplane engines, and things break and fall apart. Our trouble is that we think that "random" is the same as meaningless even while most of our lives have been determined randomly. We think that understanding means to eradicate random.

Eradicating random would be identical to eradicating God. We think that we can take the place of that cosmic love that we seem to feel less and less. I spend so much time trying to read the ever longer articles about all sorts of things, delivered to me by way of money-making algorithms. Nature, meanwhile is having none of this. Nature's seeming anger with us now, is just more of cosmic love. We're not paying attention.

To the extent that we behave according to the same structures which define artificial intelligence, which we surely do when we focus on making money, we are eradicating emotion from our cosmos. At least two local mass murderers around these parts are reported to have been very nice and mild-mannered by acquaintances and co-workers. Emotionally dead, their own deaths would be redundant.

I don't believe that the religious beliefs of the Christian Nation variety - many supporters of Trump - are any different from atheism. When you paint a cartoon god and impose creationism on wild nature, your own beliefs are dead. That doesn't mean that I deny the miracles you feel and know most every day. I only protest your acceptance of some manly need for you to follow his guidance. You're being sold the same bill of goods that atheists pander. Most atheists I know are nicer than pederast preachers.

Anyhow, emotion is the felt apprehension of concepts moving. Non-force-meditated change is apprehended as emotion, which is as much out there as perceptual material reality is, depending as it does, on motion. Your eye must move to see. Your heart/mind must be moved to feel. To be alive is to move and be moved. 

Monday, July 1, 2024

Asking What It's Like to be a Bat is Not Different from Asking What It's Like to be a Trumper

I do not wish to denigrate either bats or Trumpers. I don't know what it's like to be either. Or do I? Visiting a zoo, I have had a feeling of communion with penned or caged animals there. Looking into their eyes, I feel something very akin to what Faggin describes as his experience of cosmic love. Kastrop speaks of a "screen of perception," revealing his fundamental inability to escape fantasies of some sort of interiority to mind. He writes of physical tangible reality as an abstraction, which is a fundamental misuse of the term. 

I, naturally, find conceptual and perceptual reality to be equivalent ontological primitives. Mind and matter are not dualities; opposites separable, severable and distinct. Viz Manzotti, mind does not internalize perceptual reality by way of images stored or otherwise. Mind conceptualizes reality, both in the sense of inception, as well as in the sense of understanding. Mentation does not take place "in" the brain. Indeed there can be no mentation without the existence of percepts all around. The brain, rather, loops perceptions and aggregates them according to various affine qualities.

The brain, to the extent that it can be construed as related to mind, provides conceptual identity to repeated perceptual phenomena. Call them phenomenal fugues, but we know a tiger when we see one, coached by zoos and other tame imagery and imaginaries. Our willful acts are in response to conceptualizations of perceptual reality. The goad to act is emotional. A match is made between conceptual and perceptual reality. Often, we give that match a name.

Indeed, it is the naming which is the brink of consciousness. It is the sharing of concepts by way of language which makes each of us conscious as an identity, also with a name. Well, I should say that lots of animals - all of them, really, are conscious. Yet they don't have minds as such, that we can know of. 

Faggin would grant interiority even to such perceptual primitives as electrons, just because they can't be cloned. But they are not things, and they have no identity, existing not yet until they are perceived. It is their approximate position which can't be replicated. No other can be put there. There is certainly no interiority to any electron I know.

In the wild I can't tell a Trumper from anyone else. But try as I might, I can't see what they see in the man himself. It seems a wild fiction, no different from an AI approximation for a human. I understand that women, or maybe just a woman - let's not generalize - has been seen praying to him. Puhleeze!

I confess that I can't see God either. My mind, wherever it is, can't make God into a person-like creature who minds my business and grants my wishes or tells me what to do. I can't even conceive the nuttiness of creationism. But I know God in my bones, since serendipity is not the toss of a di, like the rock that hit my windshield dead center in my field of vision as I passed under the Peace Bridge yesterday. Wake up!

The so-called hard problem of consciousness doesn't really get any harder just by positing the impossibility to know what it's like to be a bat. We can describe consciousness in almost precisely the same way and with the same precision that we can describe material reality. The problem with consciousness is really not that much different from the problem of prediction at the quantum level. You never can predict what a mind will do until you provoke it. It isn't conscious without communication. A bat communicates as well as a dog does, though I won't be looking for a mind in either. Just because they can't tell me what it's like to be them doesn't mean that I don't know what it's like.

We think we know each other better than we know bats, but that's just batty. Computers destroy the serendipity of life, full stop. That's by definition. Monetization of purchase prediction is the very definition of grift. Non-fiat currency defines anarchy. These things are not that complicated. Trump is at the head of a gargantuan political Ponzi scheme where we all get bankrupted and then he dies. Leaving all the decent people holding the bag. Just like money has no currency without government, politics that doesn't partake of some extension of identity beyond the individual - call it a nation-state, sometimes - is by definition an imperial state.

Sure, all politicians are corrupt for the same reason that so many Ivy Leaguers seem out only for themselves anymore. But there are limits beyond which corruption becomes solipsism, and Trump has crossed them.

We can project love and value onto just about anything at all. But I'm not letting a psychopath drive my kids' school bus, meaning I'm not letting my kids get onto that bus. I wouldn't let Biden drive my kids to school either, but at least I know what it's like to be him. I know what it's like to be a bat a whole lot better than I know what it's like to be Trump. There may be no there there, but if there is I find the man morally repugnant. I can't say that about a bat, icky though it is to touch one. Just like a slimeball, actually, but a live one and not silly putty or its copyrighted replacement Slime(c). (Does that exist anymore?)

Mind gone along with half her body, I still knew that she meant it when Mom told me she loved me on the way out. She made the same connection to each of us, and to her grandchildren. She let us let her go. She told us to. Dad was in a different state when he passed. Still angry that I'd taken his car keys (out of love)? Repentant? Rage and contrition combined, it seemed.

Death is not the end of me any more than my skin is the limit of me. But I don't expect to be talking after I'm gone. And I don't expect you to know me without at least a perceptual connection to a known creature. This essay is not written by a LLM bot, I assure you. 

Saturday, June 29, 2024

An Open Missive for Federico Faggin - Goodreads Review

Irreducible: Consciousness, Life, Computers, and Human NatureIrreducible: Consciousness, Life, Computers, and Human Nature by Federico Faggin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was very excited to hear of this new book, by way of Bernardo Kastrup. Kastrup is very compelling about his insights, and I have found Faggin similarly compelling. I have, myself, come to similar insights from a different perspective, and his write-up has been extremely helpful for my own thinking.

My thinking certainly harmonizes with the conclusions of Irreducible, though I would love to engage Dr. Faggin about what I think may be mistakes in his analysis. I don't claim so much that he is wrong, but rather that he needlessly elaborates concepts in a way that many readers might associate with other unprovable belief systems. He might be getting in the way of a more convincing argument.

We most certainly agree that what is called AI is not very similar to human intelligence, but I think his systematization is overly complex, especially with his introduction of new and, to me, unnecessary technical terms.

It has been my adult pursuit to find someone with whom I might communicate those insights I gained from an experience while in my twenties, not dissimilar to what Faggin describes in the introduction to Irreducible, where he describes feeling a kind of cosmic love. I arrived at that place by cognitive breakthroughs; insights about love would follow.

The main elements of my own preparation before my breakthrough were physics and a reasonably deep study of Chinese poetics, together with a practiced understanding of how things work. I was living at the time aboard a wooden boat that I'd rebuilt. I am less proficient at designing or building new things. I am even (or have been) demonstrably great at troubleshooting computer networks.

I am no inventor or innovator, except perhaps conceptually with words. I left behind childish pursuits of gizmos and gadgets, having experienced early on the mayhem of industrial pollution and its analog of spiritual confusion from an economy fundamentally tied to warfare. These problems would not be fixed by use of the masters' tools. Dr. Faggin may have the pride of an inventor, which allows him to lay claim to more than he should in his formulations. I humbly ask that he open his mind to a much simpler rendering.

As do many of us, I now feel a sense of emergency, based on my own advancing age as well as on what I feel has become the moral emergency of mankind's misapprehension about the nature of existence. I think that much more than the future of mankind is at stake. Faggin also identifies our evil tendencies in the distortions which derive from competitive self-aggrandizement.

Along with many, if not most, thinking people, I feel alarmed about the state of humanity. Our collective behavior is certainly understandable in light of exponentially accelerating transformations which began with the industrial revolution and are now culminating in a communications revolution. Hopefully, humanity is integrating just prior to the awakening which Dr. Faggin urges. In competition with that awakening is misplaced triumphalism about the glories of materialism.

It has been convenient to put aside deeper aspects of our existence so that we may almost blissfully enjoy the triumphs of our materialistic certainties. They are certainties because they work. It has been convenient to put aside conventional morality as the atavistic holdover from an ignorant theistic past, while we glory in newfound bodily comfort and thrill.

The trouble is with replacing one theology with another.

Here's a tiny rehearsal of how evil works: I find it convenient that my phone offers up news items according to my interests. But this is not serendipity, as Faggin amply defines such things. I read more and more and inevitably fall into a false sense that by understanding more and more detail, I can alter my behavior in ways to make the world, and my world, a better place.

But of course all of the computed suggestions are motivated by algorithms for monetization. The root of all evil. By comparison, wanton recreational sex is a sin on the level of using the f word in every sentence. Bad, but not so bad. And yet our political body is once again motivated by the same kind of moral absolutes which power terrorists. How can we better align ourselves?

Because I feel still alone with my own realizations, and apparently remain incapable to share them, It is hard for me to find any good outcome for not just our current trends; it is also difficult to circumvent my sense that we have already passed the point of no return.

Collectively, we are experiencing a moral failure, which is firmly based in dangerous assumptions about the meaning of progress, the proper purposes for technology, and especially on economic arrangements which incentivize inhuman behaviors. But, it is in the nature of moral failure that it can be rectified much more quickly than can other sorts of ignorance.

It is still not inconceivable to me that we shall pull ourselves together and arise from our man-made muck by tugging at our bootstraps once the obvious truth of what Kastrup, Faggin, and I'll add myself, are struggling to share starts to infect a sufficient portion of intellectual mankind.

In some fictional cosmos - a fiction which I don't endorse - our global collectivization will entail spontaneous contact and potential communion with some other global collective of consciousness. A more realistic scenario to me would be our moral awakening to a collective responsibility for life in the largest sense. That is sine-qua-non for transcendence of our contemporary benightedness.

In a related, though subtly different fantasy, we will solve all of our problems by the application of new technologies derived from objective materialist science. It already seems far too evident that this fantasy stokes human competitive greed much faster than human compassion.

My own interpretation involves deeper definitions for familiar terms. I combine those definitions with a fuller definition for time than what we currently understand.

Firstly, I would extend to emotion the universal quality that Faggin extends (as does Kastrup) to consciousness. Consciousness is surely much more common than is conscious mind, but the term loses its meaning if made universal to the level of paramecia. Mind pervades everything, in the way that Faggin would have consciousness do, while conscious mind is rather rare, and on earth that designation should probably be reserved for humans. I think both Faggin and Kastrup misuse the term consciousness to mean mind, with which the smallest entities must always participate, even though mostly without consciousness.

A different way to speak about this, as Faggin does to an extent, would be to observe that the separation of individual conscious entities from all else is a very dangerous exaggeration. Digital either/or reality is by definition not connected. I would observe consciousness in individuated animal species as "primitive" as a lizard. That would be the starting point for "free will," or the ability to initiate causation in the world "outside" the conscious being. It would be the boundary between reactive unconscious vegetative participation and a more proactive animal posture. All boundaries are fractal, and therefore not measurable or precisely locatable, so this starting point must be intrinsically arbitrary. Proactive conscious decisions are prompted by emotive (gut) impulse, conditioned by cognitive understanding. No creature reasons its way out of emergency. Emotion provides the quickening.

I would claim that conceptual reality is ontologically equivalent to perceptual reality. Concepts exist in minds (or are of mind), and generally require rough material representations before they can be spoken of and shared. There is no conceptual circle in perceptual reality, though there must be approximations near enough to the idea(l) to provide the basis for shared comprehension.

Ideas are not born of themselves - they are not the initiator of what we call invention - but result from the interplay of objective material reality and the conceptual work of mind.

I don't think that the philosopher's term 'qualia' adds anything useful to our understanding. That term exists because of an unthinking denigration of conceptual reality. We have no more trouble being certain that our compeers perceive our own "red" than we do with more instrumental perception. In this I agree with materialist Daniel Dennett.

I don't find any of the newly coined technical terms which Faggin uses to add anything useful to this discussion. I mean such usages as seity, CU, as well as qualia. To some extent, Faggin is urging a belief system based on his own quasi-religious awakening. I don't think he's really furthering understanding.

The consequence of the realization of the ontological equivalency of conceptual reality with perceptual reality is the realization that mind pervades the cosmos.

The nut of my realization has been that emotion is (the apprehension of) change in conceptual arrangements. To put that another way, in the perceptual world, movement means that force is present - the exchange of gauge bosons, as described in the standard physical model. In conceptual terms, there is movement without force, and that movement constitutes or provokes the emotional response of the conscious mind. That response ranges from "aha" to the love felt when deeply in communion with cosmic mind. To understand is to feel a more encompassing conceptual arrangement.

Of course, there is no final or ultimate understanding. This realization is where hope resides. The world which we co-create will never be complete. Its natural laws evolve along with its creatures.

As regards ultimate matters, Dr. Faggin doesn't address time except implicitly. It is my realization that directional time is defined by the course and direction of evolution in life. A sort of complement to entropy, which might be called love, but might better be called eros.

I don't believe that there is any consistent physical description for time's direction without life. As with the big bang at the beginning - according to some exponents of the standard model - without life, the ending of the cosmos would be as instant and as beyond time (as we currently understand and sense it) as "was" the Big Bang. Emotion is a not time and force-bound any more than is quantum entanglement. The universe as we experience it is not composed of 3+1 dimensions. It is composed of four.

The non-reproducibility of quantum nature constitutes the identity of all electrons with all other electrons. Faggin mistakes the mistakes the uniqueness - the non-clonability - of each collapsible cloud of probability, just as he extends the uniqueness of each individual conscious being by introducing the needless concept of seity. No other conscious being can exist in my space. My "interiority" is sufficiently defined by my social, physical, linguistic and emotional "position;" my uniqueness requires no further mystification. Electrons or other quantum particles are sufficiently unique according to their approximate position. It isn't helpful to equate this uniqueness with some supposed "interiority" of consciousness. Personally, I tend to believe that we all wear our special qualities on our sleeves.

In brief, usages for both "consciousness" and "time," as that relates to history and development, are not sufficiently examined or consistent as described in Irreducible. If he has a kind of faith that the interconnected lived world of consciousness will get us out of our current mess, I also differ with that fundamentally religious position. What is required is the exercise of moral will.

In some obvious sense, each of us is individuated enough that our being doesn't end when our body does. Based on a personal experience of death by drowning, I also know that, upon death, individual human consciousness grows exponentially toward full consciousness of one's entire life at once. Analagous to the Big Bang, death of consciousness, identical to birth of consciousness, has no boundary, no finality, and is metaphorically identical to time dilation to massless eternity at light-speed.

Humans are now organized in a state of confusion probably greater than any previously experienced in our history. Various styles of religious belief proliferate willy-nilly, and an alarming number of people have evidently abandoned any and all natural (versus rule-bound) quality to morality and moral behavior. Our seeking individual fault is counterproductive at best, and is more likely an accelerant to our collective misbehavior, as I'm certain Dr. Faggin would agree.

Ours is a crisis of understanding, though its terms are based on morality, rather than on cognitive understanding. Accepting the fundamental reality of emotion allows for at least as much "progress" toward rulemaking for behavior as materialism (R.I.P.) has afforded us the means to control our environment. Meanwhile, we've run amok both conceptually and materially.

I wish that I could develop a compelling narrative, but I seem first to require an interlocutor open-minded and informed enough to work with me on that. So far, there has been nobody. It would be a contradiction in terms for me to be able to accomplish this understanding on my own. My goal in blogging is to make contact. I have no finished description or explanation on my own.

I'll be grateful for any help in the contact.

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Friday, June 7, 2024

Exhausting AI

I want to focus on a small set of the absurdities of so-called Artificial Intelligence. I'm motivated in the first place by some misapprehension about what general intelligence is and isn't. Human intelligence, for instance, can't be understood apart from random. Random is that uncontrollable part of reality, which human intelligence deals with reactively and/or intuitively. There is emotion involved.

Sometimes humans proactively measure how the future is likely to be disposed and change present decisions accordingly, in a proactive way. The decision is only logical if there is time for that. Otherwise, I would contend that it's mostly emotional. We'd never survive if all our decisions were made logically. 

Now, I'm sure that computer-based AI can also deal with slings and arrows, perhaps even better than humans can. Perhaps it will be enough better than humans to price out human reaction, no matter the cost in electrical power and design to prime our intuition pumps with artifice. The trouble is that once the raw speed of AI decidering takes over, emotion will be essentially banished from our world.

I have maintained for quite a while that AI doesn't and didn't start with computers. AI is the kind of intelligence to which we delegate our human choices when we wish to take credit for our good luck on the basis of our cleverness. Sometimes, while knowing the morally good choice, we make the clever choice to advance our individual interests. 

This is what our economy is designed to reward, and most of us are familiar with the blowhards who claim credit for their inherited social capital, which includes social placement, good luck, and frankly for their vacuity in the morality department. 

Artificial intelligence leaves no room for morality in decision-making, except in the extremis of legal sanctions against certain plays, and possibly when morality can be reduced to a set if rules for compliance. But legality and rule-making is its own realm of AI, not able to touch the global decision-making which most, or at least many, of us still leave to the Gods. 

But the Gods won't decide such things as how ridiculous it is to build electric vehicle recharging stations along the interstates. Sure, if mandate number one is to preserve private vehicle saturation, which it certainly is in our economy, then it only makes sense to get them on the prized contributor to the economy from the military-industrial complex, which is the Interstate Highway System.

From a more human perspective, it surely makes more sense to retrofit those rights of way with comfortable high-speed rail. Leave the electric vehicles for those benighted souls who still want to live in the suburbs, and leave the smartphone distributed autonomous vehicles for the urban centers. Make them mostly trolleys, please.

If you're lucky enough to be a C-level deciderer, you know that it would be considered immoral of you to forgo the collective, corporate, interest according to your personal or religious morality. You only job is to maximize profits, though that might be accomplished by pleasing a certain religiously guided segment of your customer base. 

While what we mean traditionally by religion is dying, we collectively behave in ways concordant with religious empires just simply because no matter how sophisticated we think that we've become, we have as much ability to trust our collective knowledge as we did before Darwin when we trusted religious authorities. Where's the progress, I ask. 

For good reason, we've tried to ban religious thinking from the marketplace, from the education space, and especially from government. The trouble is that we don't know what to do about morality short of the law. Or long of the law, if you will. 

Now for certain, I think that the notion of a personal god has become nutty, but not quite so nutty as the notion that there is no god. And I don't mean a God, which tends toward nutty but God. As in there is God. 

You can say it's just lazy to attribute to God what is beyond humans, but really that's only if you think humans are ultimately capable of understanding everything. Which would mean, ultimately, to banish random except as a mathematical concept. Which is probably the same thing as to banish God, since many of us find God in the distinction between random events which make no difference, and random events which do. We're somehow supposed to believe, scientifically, that it's wrong to attribute meaning to happenstance. I think that's a rule impossible to follow myself. 

Let's take if for granite [sic] that machines don't fall in love. While machines having a certain sort of sophistication to their logic pumps, their LLMs, might imitate forms of language or music or imagery which trigger emotional response in humans, those machines themselves are never taken in.

Now, jumping ahead of myself for a moment, do we really wish to live in a universe of what used to be called MUZAK (c) ?? Surely AI can anticipate our emotional responses better than any superstar, especially when that superstar is immediately digested by the AI replicating monster.

Machines aren't taken in, in part, at least, because of an inbred inability to make decisions by random selection. At it's extreme, that's because digital is cut off from that continuum which living creatures are part of and not apart from the way that AI is, by definition. 

Sure, throw in random from the "real world" beyond the AI and you can get something that might nearly replicate the processes of evolution, for example. But apart from the performative sort of falling in love, which arguably most humans practice now, especially given the ubiquity of performative sex on screens everywhere, there won't be any machine falling in love. Whoops, I've turned you off!

It's funny, in a weird way, that those of us who grew up under the shadow of the scary population bomb have now been presented with an equally scary baby-shortage bomb, itself under the shadow of the climate bomb. 

Our economy depends, in addition to amoral AI, on perpetual growth. At its root remains perishable humans. Perishable humans who can't separate the mechanics of sex from the emotions of sexual engagement, and ultimately, of reproduction.

I know that sounds primitive of me. I wish to say precisely nothing about the amorality of hooking up, of trans sex, of recreational sex whatever gender to whichever. Those things don't quite make it into my morality either. 

I'm just talking about the necessary and eternal connection between whatever it is that we feel in communion with our fellow humans, and whatever it is that we physically do. Love can take at least as many forms as cultures, languages, and people do. At root, there has to be some sort of reproductive process for life to be life. 

It is my contention that the overall trajectory of life is in a direction informed by love. I mean evolution in the largest possible sense. This direction has been disturbed by the forces of AI for only a few hundred years by now. Call them the years of apocalypse if you must, but the form and nature of that darned apocalypse keeps shifting, doesn't it?

The big BIG question is how are we to collectively decide anything anymore? I guess the good news is that we are in a massive liminal zone, which is wherefrom all life has always evolved. Think beaches and tides. Earth and sky. Beneath and beyond the bozone, er, ozone layer. 

Frankly all of our weirdness can be reduced to idiotic notions of individualism. The great thing about the great transformative NOW is that the skin is dissolving before our very eyes. ASMR, sure, but we don't feel a thing anymore. 

Here are some of my own practices in service to the collective good. They all seem to have the quality of having been internalized as disgust. Sort of like the digust we would feel while eating shit, but less natural than that. 

So, I can't drink Coke. If I must drink it, it tastes as good to me as it does to you, but given that I don't and can't know everything that's in it, I get more pleasure from a splash of orange juice into soda water. If I could afford it, and it didn't cost so much transportation-based wastage, I might use Perrier water, but it does so I won't.

I can't purchase plastic bags or plastic wrap, though I do clean and use the stuff that's thrust on me in the form of leftovers. I see no actual need for these things, and I feel a kind of disgust with myself to use them. 

I won't ever buy an electric car, basically because those seem to have more power to continue our addiction to automobiles than gas cars do. Sadly, I can only imagine the actual joy of plentiful and comfortable public transportation. I could use the social interaction. I love driving, though, and like a gun owner you can pry the wheel from my cold dead hands, or I'll gladly relinquish my car if you help me vote for more and better public transportation. Meanwhile I need a stick shift and the sense that I'm doing the driving. I can't imagine any other reason to want a car. I know a million reasons for needing a car, but we need to vote those out of existence.

My route to not feeling fretful or guilty all the time is to imagine that the God resolution when it comes, will look nothing like the human resolution. We obviously can't decide to end global warming. But the decision will be foisted upon us willy-nilly. Will it be population collapse? Shipping breakdown for political reasons? Hatred and warfare because of the obscenity of intrageneralational wealth transfer combined with s shrinking ratio of beneficiaries per decedent? Some seventy trillion dollars going from lots of baby-boomers to far fewer offspring.

We're already almost crippled - politically we are crippled - by all the hatred caused by the ambiguities of received truth. Meaning that we don't know who to trust, and gather toward those whose beliefs most match our own. We use things like race and culture and religion to mark our enemies. Surely that collective force will overwhelm any goodwill we might muster. 

And yet through it all there will still be love and life and happiness and sadness. Hanging on to what we have now, no matter how comfortable we think it is, is not going to make anyone happy. In very simple terms, the comforts we crave - in the same way we crave a Coke - are not sustainable. 

But many these are artificial comforts, not even worthy of the name. The real comforts are love and security and warmth and a full stomach. The gizmos and gadgets and happy-making machines just don't cut it against those basics. The more duress we bring on to the whole, the less the distinctions among us will mean anything. A wealthy person on his yacht or in his bunker is just as dead as the rest of us once the seas are roiling and the skies are hot and dry.

The sun will come up tomorrow, and many of us will still find reason to think that the likes of Trump are other than a psychopathic con artist. In the collective, we are truly no smarter than the rest of the animal mass combined. In the collective, we are Leviathan gulping oil. We take credit ourselves, never crediting God for the challenge. Shall we blame God for the fall?

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

The Insanity of Panpsychism and Metaphysical Idealism

For some reason that I can't quite fathom, there have been a lot of articles in the popular press lately about either or both of Panpsychism and Metaphysical Idealism. I suspect it's because they don't threaten a thing about the status quo. We're all afraid of antiracism anymore. Or anything which can be polarized.

Of course, I find these approaches to metaphysics plenty attractive. But they don't really change anything, except to get rid of the same Occam's Razor rule breaking idiocy that they replace with a still worse violation. By calling everything conscious, one doesn't solve anything about the human brand of consciousness, which is so obviously singular. By calling all reality "mind" one finds oneself in the same place. These thinkers just simply can't do both/and. 

Mind and consciousness are distinguished in nearly the same way that material reality is distinguished from woo woo reality. It changes nothing to claim universality to either of these words. There are no new strategies available to test and to understand reality. Calling both or either universal qualities is an unnecessary all or nothing play. Dangerous for that.

Now of course, nobody's asking me, and nobody's going to ask me, but if you ask me, these approaches can only come from people who know far too much. Meaning that they have dived too deeply into one discipline or another and have more they need to get rid of (but can't let go of) before allowing for more radical interpretations such as the one that I would propose. 

I'm suggesting that emotion is the universal they should be looking at. There's no real woo woo about emotion other than the evident fact that it can't be measured materially, and that it's been assigned to the realm of qualia, whose existence I contest right along with Daniel Dennett, although I'm not quite so atheistic as he and the other storied four, now three R.I.P. horsemen are. 

My fundamental knowledge that God is real is based only on the conviction that we're not ever going to understand everything, nor are any of our successors or assigns even if evolution does somehow keep going. Humanity as we now construe it is the only full stop to that. On par with such other extinction events as meteor crashes or solar death, if far more premature and technically avoidable. Which means that anthropogenic stoppage is no random matter. 

To reiterate again what absolutely nobody seems to get, I'm defining emotion as the felt pseudo motion of conceptual arrangements. Never mind qualia, concepts are real, and are related to material reality by the fact that we need material approximations of conceptual arrangements in order to be able to speak of them. Take circles and squares, for instance, or any old idea for that matter. There are no ideas which exist in material reality. There is no idea of a tiger, but our decision making emotive reaction depends on having that generalization in mind. Logic is far too slow to deploy in the face of emergent reality. Logic is required only to lay the foundation for emotive choice.

Squares transforming to circles elicit about as much human emotion as would a dandelion show evidence of consciousness. Dandelions don't react or respond to generalizations, though they sure do elicit an emotional response among humans, depending on all sorts of associations. 

Yes, Virginia, art is at the root of humanity, and no other species. We live now almost entirely bereft of art, having replaced it by artifice, so long as the artificial has economic valence. The emotions we feel toward money matters are approximately as profound and bereft of actual evaluation as are our political feelings, depending as they do on very bad actors.

Go red! Go blue! I prefer football for that stuff, and my team is both red and blue.

I'll keep pounding on these things until the moment I die, I'm sure. But no worries, that event won't be any further away than the apocalypse you all believe in but don't know what to do about, or our collective awakening, which will happen willy-nilly. Whichever comes first. Our collective behaviors just now are atrocious, but then we've never been so collective as a species until so very recently. 

Don't go blaming yourself as a member of my species. You have no more real choice than does a dandelion. The story of Jesus taught us choice, if we could only jettison the claptrap about how special we are as individuals. We are nothing as individuals unless we get it together. That's the rest of the story. 

As my mom, Virginia, always said, it's darkest before the dawn. True that!

Thursday, May 30, 2024

AI Can't Legislate Morality Either

Wasn't Holmes Jr. the author of that quote? I have it on the authority of my brother, a lawyer, that he was. Google says it's MLK Jr. My brother could always beat me up, even though I was bigger than him. He played football, I was a swimmer. Game over. He must be right!

Well in any case it's probably just law school shorthand lore. One gets the general idea, except when my lawyer daughter speaks in-group shorthand, like crimpro (I made that one up). 

Remember when Google was going to scan all the books ever published, and make it like a public service. That all went the way of 'don't be evil,' didn't it? Now we have NYT suing ChatGPT for pilfering their words along the way to training the bot, whose innards are as opaque as those of the human brain. Who knew?

Might we now depend on AI to skirt the copyright boundaries. What will be lost? Like we family share a bunch of film streaming services and feel downright rooked when they start surveilling and putting ads back in. Which was the whole point, right? 

But who, really can police this stuff? The Times also provokes me with AI as a threat to C-level types. And in the same issue (what's an issue anymore, really?) talks about how we win wars when they're truly existential. Meaning some general makes the call to kill large numbers of civilians. Destroy the morale of the enemy hoards. Nuke 'em. 

Holmes was the champion of the common law, right? It's what the people decide and it might not always comport to what philosophers of morality would decide. 

But CEO's have always been paid, and ever more exorbitantly now, for putting aside any concern for the patsy on whose brash enthusiasms their corporate selfie thrives. There is such a clear price now for amorality! Sick. According to Tooze, only the computations for 'evil bitcoinage' exceed the computing costs for AI training. Maybe CEOs will be the first to fall? The only ones worth the sacrifice, at the outset.

At elite colleges now, the Times also tells me, it's politically correct to boast about selling out. Grab you bag (of loot!) and take your prize. I'm telling you as a prolapsed Yalie that this is same as it ever was. No news fit for print. The local paper offers an ad-free account now, thought up by their national handler. So low have ad revenues fallen.

I know from my ex father-in-law that newspapers were so very recently among the most profitable to the tune of fifty percent businesses to own. No wonder Buffet, not Jimmy, owned ours for so long. So long! Newspaperman Commander Tom has his funeral today, may he rest in peace.

I tend to blame the degenerated system of public education, and I don't mean what you mean religionists, which in turn tends to blame the degeneration of the family, for the inchoate idiocy of Trump and his followers. Have any of them read any history? Ever? Or does the rot start at the top?

But hey, you know, that particular branch of the hoi polloi may be more emotionally intelligent than the rest of us. They know that something stinks in Denmark. Nuke it, they say, not entirely unreasonably. They smell an existential threat when they hear it.

Frankly, my dear, we don't give a damn. We have no good theory about what we're leaving out when we experiment with general intelligence. Well, I say, take a look at the world as a whole and you'll get the idea. 

Our media, whose eyeball grabbers have been artificially intelligent for eons, have finally polarized and bifurcated us to final death. Like a splitting amoeba, we glom to sides defined by guns and pollution without nuance for civil discussion. Red team blue team red pill blue, it's all that's left of me and you!

The law apparently has nothing much to say against allowing a proto-fascist to run for office, just because so many people place themselves inside his blob. I might almost agree that zero intelligence Trumps artificial intelligence every time, but for the evident fact that this guy's a psychopath who cares only for himself apart from performative displays of pseudo-passion. What we've come to expect from any politician.

Now hey, have I got a show for you! Mad Max on steroids, as if you could press that franchise any further. Max kicked me off on my Roku, but I was able to finish on my phone. Mad dash to the promised land. We may not have a good theory for what intelligence really is, just like we may not have a good theory for what morality is, just like we don't have a good theory for what emotion is.

Here's a good ol' college try: Emotion is that aspect of intelligence which artificial intelligence lacks. I say the lack is by definition, since logic reduced to binary bits is cut off from the factual integration of everything with everything else. 

Sure, a good CEO makes his best decisions by the seat of his pants. Take Steve Jobs, please. Oh wait, he's already taken. Like a great quarterback, you have to master the game and then you have to make the plays by feel. Computers don't feel a thing.

Who knows how the brain works, but however it works the brain is embodied, just like the body is embodied by the all. Decisions are the least of what the brain does, bogged down as it is with setting the stage from experience. Experience is built on moving about in the world and discovering commonalities with all else that lives. There is terminal sadness in the proliferation of plastics from oil, Benjamin, and not just in the form of global warming. Tools in the hand have been retracted onto a screen so that we may compute any structure that we can imagine. 

This is the root cause of our degeneration. Even Trumpers know that. Especially Trumpers. Which is a taboo subject on my side of the Great Divide. 

Fuck, I'm old. Just moving is painful. I have to hand it to those two soon-former guys as they keep up their marathon attendance on their roles. I watched the Buffalo marathon the other day. There's nothing there - there's nothing anywhere which could draw me into that pursuit. Painful just to watch. A woman who looked to be 80 jogged past with with numbered bib as I strolled toward the starting gun. Just wanting to witness the big bang. I walked a half marathon that day as a lonely spectator. Paying for it still.

So we still witness life, even though we might no longer participate in it. Even though our earth is almost fully constructed now. Even though we nurse dreams of travel through the Dune-scape of outer space. We mimic down here on earth now, the uncrossable distance one to the next as is the mandate of our economic totalitarianism. If you are not an individual you are nothing to the marketplace. A worthless cog. 

But we ain't dead yet. I don't know why, with the endlessness of unreachable space and its endless population of similarities, we think, against the laws of physics, that we're going to make contact with other life. We can't even make contact with one another here on earth. 

Get it together and God will be known to us once again. Not a god, or The God, but God, that remainder beyond our understanding which always defines the here and now.

Over and out. Roger that. There are so many ways to terminate. Not so many ways to live. At least we're all together now. One vessel. We made it ourselves. Let's get it together.

Or as my granddaughter sings, 'row row row your boat . . . '  I'll learn the ropes some day, even as it kills me. Hey, automatic life preservers are on sale! Yippee, hooray, wahoo!

Sunday, April 28, 2024

A General Theory of Love

A General Theory of LoveA General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was alerted to this book a while ago, but only recently found it in the library. It’s not a new book, and it remains very brain-centric, which makes it, to me, somewhat obsolete. But then we’re all more brain-centric than ever, now fairly obsessed with intelligence, natural and artificial.

By brain-centric, I mean that we still imagine that our thinking and feeling both happen somehow *in* the brain. That is where we locate our consciousness, likely mostly because of the brain's proximity to our most basic senses.

A less brain-centric understanding of the brain might conceptualize it as more of a switchboard to orchestrate the interactions of our body-boundaries with the world we live in. Such a view would make the mind more of a microcosm than a computer; our contemporary machine metaphor for how things work. The mind and body interact, and emotion was never absent. Heck, emotion also pervades the cosmos. We just can't see it yet.

Of course, clever though we certainly are, our intelligence, highly untempered by love, is destroying us even as it elevates us. This book was instrumental in foreshadowing the impending paradigm shift we so ardently resist.

As Lewis demonstrates and insists, emotion is in no way subordinate or merely ancillary to intelligence at the core of what makes us human. We perish as easily from love’s lack as we do from stupidity.

To call it what it is, the behavior of our economic and political leaders is hateful. They celebrate a kind of disembodied merit, which discounts kindness as but a sales booster. They treat the symptoms of the dispossessed by drugs and prison in what is revealed by this book to be a vicious cycle which starts with being too desperate for survival to afford love.

Nobody but what we call the one percent now benefits from this ardor. The rest of us make do with bread and puppets between our overtime labor gigs in someone else’s interest.

Where is the love?

Well it’s been papered over by false passions for personal gain. We should know better; that there is no person without the social, and there is no social without emotional bonds.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Civil War

My daughter sent around this well-reasoned and alarming article from the New Republic. It sent me into a bit of a tailspin, especially as it was immediately followed, in my reading adventures, with notice of a new film called Civil War. How many of us will now be picturing fraternal warfare in our minds? The referenced article outlines four possible outcomes for the fall election, none of them good.

I've since checked up on the filmmaker, Alex Garland, no relation to Wizard of Oz, I'm almost certain, and was reminded of liking Ex Machina, in a way. It played more with the cinematic elements which might trigger an audiences loins; audience as proxy for creator. I found that interesting.

I dialed myself back anyhow, with a haphazard read hinting Adam Tooze' take on Foucault's take on power. Kind of the absolute autarchy of the workplace up against fantasy fictions of public democracy. Yes, sure, maybe there are people who would shoot their right-to-carry gun at someone shouting angry epithets in their direction, but how really shall we identify the ones to hate? How shall we decide who's cheating to make it in and who's really just supplicating? Are we really so ready for anarchy? Genetic testing proves white supremacists to never be quite so lily-white. We are already more like family than we are a nation.

Shall there be no sanction against murder? How would we identify teams? Town against town, or would we each choose an AI inimitable leader? Does it really all devolve into black and white? Can Texas and California be united based only on their exceptionalism?

We do destroy by proxy with abandon from here, without feeling all that much worse for it because it doesn't seem directly to affect us. It's over there. It's horrible the way a movie is horrible, and then we go shopping for this and that, eat out, drink beer, and merry ourselves. Shall I eat popcorn while watching Civil War?

I myself reserve my sharpest anger for rich people who've become Trumpers because they think the policies which enable them to get rich on the backs of everybody else need to be continued in support of their life-styles. But since I actually love some such people, and since I don't want a gun anywhere near my hand, except for target practice maybe, I'm not going to be charged up to kill any such people, hate them though I might. When alone. On and in principle.

Now what happens when my phone no longer recognizes me? I ordered up a new driver's license to reflect my newish address. It was getting to be too much trouble to deal with transactional types who filled in the driver's license old address unthinkingly. Don't they know how often people move? Or do I just look stable? I forgot to record the fact that my eye-color has changed because of glaucoma drops. How does one even do that? I don't think my phone cares. It's more geometric and deploys frequencies I can't sense.

The world is roiling, and, interestingly to me, it now revolves around national security threats which result directly from our savior economic system, which rushes to the cheapest manufactory and damn the torpedoes!

So we see evil in the differing economic arrangements in China, say, where the People's Liberation Army was "designed" so as not to be a burden on the people. It would grow its own food instead of plundering overtaken villages and farmsteads. And, eventually, it would grow factories and whole industries, some defense-related and some only incidentally so. Potato potaato, we build our economy on the basis of our military-industrial complex, while China is maybe more up-front about the arrangements.

I might have been more professionally engaged with China. My august professor, meaning to write me a glowing recommendation to a heady pre-professional stay in China, included a phrase which might have made the same sense to me as it did to the selection committee. 'while I can't see him becoming an influential professional, [he] has all the qualities . . .' He was surely correct, no matter the causal relations.

Anyhow, it's no longer $500 hammers and NASA at the leading edge of tech. Even the military industrial complex gets its silicon parts off the shelf, so to speak. I know from personal experience that the IT infrastructure and services on an aircraft carrier, say, are far inferior in robust fault-tolerance and service corps as compared with much of the business community. My personal interface with such matters has grown old for sure, so don't take my word for anything. I'm just sayin' that I did once know my networking basics better than the officer-types I sometimes interfaced with, though I would never for a split second consider myself competent to manage a warship's infrastructure. Anyhow, we all believed the same proprietary propaganda. What choice did we have? Chain of command doesn't apply in all situations.

There are so very many things I once was certain of. But now I marvel at how many times that certainty I once had about how to accomplish even mechanical tasks astounds me for my former stubborn simplicity, so full of pride in my acumen was I. Why didn't I think of that before? Pride was in my way.

We're going to ban production in China now for the makings that go into wonder drugs because we're worried about the sort of private intellectual-property style data they can mine. As though our Meta-Alphabet-ical Amazonian rainforest of personal data mined from our incredibly anti-social monetization as sanctioned in and by and for the digi-verse over here. Who owns you? Who ever asked you for permission to use your very personal genetic code for their private profit?

Arrangements are very shifty right now. We long for the kind of stability in cultural arrangements which only seem to have existed in our misty hindsight. And so our fears are easily fanned by demagogues, charlatans, hucksters and Confidence Men. YOLO FOMO motherfuckers who are the inevitable result of we can't tell the difference between reality TV and reality.

But I get it. I do. Scientists who are addicted to the notion that absolutely everything has to make their kind of sense come up with shit like 'many worlds,' or now many other worlds which cuts itself shaving on Occam's Razor for sure. They are so desperate to get the observer out of any and all equations that we're supposed to ascribe reality to these purely mathematical constructs so that we can call it a day. You hear these things in snippets and then you can't find them. But I know the point of the multiverses within multiverses theory was to obviate the need for any observer.

It took billions and billions of dollars to prove the foregone conclusion that the Higg's boson does exist. My nephew did the graphics based on the math so that all could see. He works for Amazon now. Which is the thing we're better off for?

The thing is that nowadays the explainers on the radio, if you even listen to that anymore, are all pert female voices that you can imagine as pretty, which is a great stereotype disturbance when discussing bleeding edge science, but hey why are they reporting and not doing, exactly? Talking heads can be groomed in many dimensions, most beyond your sensory awareness.

I'm way more comfortable with not having to explain everything or assume that it might be explainable in any ultimate sense at some indeterminate future time. I've stopped already in my defeat of Godhead and its replacement by us. At this point now, in human history, there is no more sense to making sense.

My only certainty is that digital AI can't come close to the real thing. The trouble is not that AI will exceed us, it's that we've already capitulated by internalizing the AI that's been all around and about us ever since we started constructing our world even before petro-reality and even digital reality by way of sail and wooden ships and actual horse-power. Sustainability is no road to any future that I want. Sustainability is the fantasy excuse for not changing a thing. Nobody debates that we slaughtered Buffalo to near extinction; that Native Americans never stood a chance. Keep your powder dry.

I want to deconstruct, like any good post-industrial post-modernist. I sure don't want no Elvis wanna-be for any kind of leadership role. Even Parkinson's addled, Muhammad Ali would be better. At least he knew from love. And his job was to hurt.

By definition of digital, meaning the absolute distinction between on and off, digital can't be real. It can only be black and white, with simulations of otherness for froth. As a self of any sort, I am intertwined with just about all of creation. Digital can't be. 

We have no theory for how random works even as we have to way to understand mind as a limited aspect of reality. We certainly have no excuse for separating ourselves as some kind of exceptional knower. Computers, in principle, can't even do random.

So sure, bring it on Trumpers. We do indeed need to devolve power to a more local level. What we don't need is Disney religion permeating our political permutations and determinations on anything approaching a national scale. If only we could imagine decent people wanting leadership roles we could easily imagine smallish autonomous states, intertwined by all our wonderful technologies while bereft of illicit manipulations. 

In your dreams. 

I do, of course, have a theory for random. Canonically now, our DNA evolves according to how its engendered physical embodiment survives to procreate within the ever roiling environment for existence. This evolution is based on, powered by, you might say, random reconfigurations whose net is ever increasing complexity among the living. Whatever you or I know, we know mostly by random, no matter how much credit you may wish to claim.

The only fittest that survive comport to God's mind, not ours. We have but made ourselves numb to any kind of godhead, with religion leading the charge. God has never spoken in words.

Genetics seems like some kind of grand transfer of complexity from dying entropic structure to the quickening realm of what we call creation. As such, it informs a direction for time as a kind of twin for entropic decay. Each must be measured by the other.

One must now say that God is random, which is to say that the Godhead is the fountainhead of life. Is it really any more complicated than that? Must it be? We have far more important work to do than to pound our head on what we think that we must become.

Can't have one without the other; mind the yang, entropic decay the yin. Life builds while its constructs decay. Boundaries are always fractal and therefore unmeasurable to eternity, depending on magnification. The boundary between my mind and the rest of knowledge is surely arbitrary and capricious, though it is certain that I can know nothing all by myself. The constructs of our knowledge also decay, and so, therefore, must knowledge.

My digital records conceal more than they preserve.

I hone my Occam's razor the way that Chuang-tzu's butcher honed his cleaver to find the space between what only seems to be joined. It's not the seeming that's the fiction. It's the knowing which can only be conjecture. The cleaver doesn't change the join.

So sure, let's bring on a civil war of all against the other, Pogo. Who can ever be said to have won that contest, I wonder. Not I, said the little-read hen. I wouldn't even know who to be angry at, other than myself. Good thing, really, that I'll never own a gun. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Three Body Secret of China

The Three Body Secret of China

Some time back in maybe 2016, when I was routinely in Shanghai working for an American College which wanted to build a bridge between here and there, I became aware of the SciFi novel then known in English as The Three Body Problem, by Liu Cixin. Of all things, I learned of the book by way of Facebook, where Mark Zuckerberg touted reading it and touted himself by proxy.

Now I’ve grown to detest Facebook for a variety of reasons that I won’t go into here, but mostly because I’ve always been socially shy. It was a work-necessity at the time (across a VPN while in China). But I learned about the precedent-shattering Hugo award, and I even watched Zuckerberg mimic an American tech-titan in a cringe-worthy imitation of Chinese. I’ll give him credit for trying. I won’t give him credit for much else.

While trying to build my bridge, I would routinely speak before large groups of Chinese students, and sometimes - after I’d read the book - I would ask who had read San Ti, its Chinese title. I was surprised that only a few would raise their hands, though my survey was not an accurate count. The book has its subversive undertones, which might have kept hands unraised at the time.

Amazon was viable then in China, and I had a physical address in Shanghai, so creating my Chinese account was trivial. I had amassed enough WeChat cash to purchase the three-book collection for a song. It was a pretty easy read, not exactly packed with those pesky four-character expressions or too many erudite literary allusions the way that Card Apprentice was when I translated its 600-plus chapters uncredited and for a pittance while wandering across the US trying to understand Trumpism. I was translating for the Chinese on-line literary equivalent to The Voice or whatever we do over here on television that I shall never watch. I was indeed a party to, and part of, the modern version of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They, or a six-day ride-until-you drop bicycle race. Not pretty.

Hey, let’s put on a show! Let’s get rich on the desperation of the intelligent masses. Let’s transform our economies to something even worse than capitalism and make the people love it! It’s all free, after all! The money pump to the top is more efficient than ever, post-industrially speaking. That’s what tech means!

Along my travels, I was told about the child of an acquaintance of my sister who was starring in an upcoming Chinese film about the story of Edgar Snow and Red Star Over China, which I’d obviously read, since I’ve obviously studied some about China.

Now Kenan Heppe, who played Snow in the film, comes across as a rather caricatured American, reminiscent of Zuckerberg’s self-caricature, and is criticized for that. I think that’s how he was cast though, and he played the part brilliantly. Zuck is just a tool.

Way back when, I spent some hours trying to figure out if either film was ever made, and never could. That was when Covid was hitting, and frankly, penetrating the Chinese web remains deuced difficult by reason of a kind of language and ordering that is still more different than Chinese already is from English. I gathered that production of Three Body was suspended for various reasons, having less to do with Covid than with cinematographic cultural reconfigurations. I watched some atrocious clips. And then I forgot about the whole mess.

Now, in the midst of another great China-America chill which makes me glad I never did build that bridge because it would have crumbled if not from Covid then from America’s continued ignorance about China, I find myself curious again.

Low and behold, there is a Chinese TV series called Three Body which is easily available now to continent-bound me, by way of Peacock. And that unnamed American piratical (when I point at you there are three fingers pointing at me, nenerneenernana) mega-service had the Red Star film for free. Navigating cross-continent subscriptions remains tricky for me, and the price differential can be mind-boggling, although I may still have some yuan in my WeChat account. Hmmm. In any case, Amazon in China, having my now defunct Chinese phone number on its mostly defunct service, is well beyond me anymore.

So here’s the point of my meandering post:

Each of us is a strange attractor by way of coincidence; we are attractors mostly for links which none of us could make solely on the basis of hard work. None of us can master what is really true in cross-cultural relations. All of us are subject to prejudice, and all news is slanted, at least by the prime directive to get your attention.

But I shall and must confess that I wept while watching the Red Star film. It was a fine representation of China’s founding hagiography. I saw myself in my own youth, since the actor somewhat resembles me at that time. The film was also a morality play meant to remind the US of old promises, and the way we once were. Both cinematic productions are old by now, just as I am.

Anyhow, I’ve dived right back in to reading Three Body for yet another time, with my old-age Chinese on my crumbling China-based tablet. I know that I was thrilled by the first read. But there are deeper harmonics for me now. I doubt that anyone even yet knows how profoundly this book has altered China’s sense of itself, and our relations with China.

These twin experiences have given me new hope.

End of Message.

Monday, February 19, 2024

It's About Time

I said I'd stop this. I'm old and I'm tired much of the time. I'm always in pain. Not debilitating pain, but the kind that makes you not want to kneel, lift, climb and so forth in anticipation of how it will feel. I exhibit many of the signs which most people refer to as lazy. I'm certainly lazy in my writing. 

Way back when I hit on what I thought then, and still think now, was an important reconfiguration of how we conceive of understanding, I was certain that the upshot was so obvious that all I had to do was prime the pump and then some more qualified individual would take it over. 

Indeed that pattern has been my conviction about how things work. If Einstein hadn't come upon his theories of relativity, someone surely would have. After all, these are matters of truth - or what I prefer to call truing - where, over time, all of us must agree. I don't tend to credit genius as much as an exuberant first to the finish line. Perhaps you might say that so-called "genius" is a grant from the Fates, which it surely is. But a winner does require skill and training to luck into a win. 

A lazy ass like me can almost never be a winner. Well, I'd say, based on work I've done and jobs I've held that I am not a lazy soul. But I sure am shy of winning. 

Lately, I've been making the unsupported claim that time is a conspiracy of life. Then last night I watched a fairly pedestrian biographical look at Einstein, on Netflix, and realized that I'd better do a bit more work here. 

Among the quips tossed off by the actor playing Einstein - all credited as the actual words of Einstein in writing or in speech - was one about time. Something like "no future to look forward to and no past to regret". I find this online: "The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion." Close enough. 

But Einstein's theories only showed that time would slow according to relative velocity of motion, I don't think he ever demonstrated, in his thought experiments, that time could reverse. Subsequent physical models have required time reversal - a kind of reverse causality - as a feature of our cosmos at its extremes.

So it remains unchallenged and therefore unexamined that on the macro scale, causality defines the material cosmos. That's the basis for how the scientific method sets out to understand the way things are structured, and the way that they work. Prediction is the thing, and it should, ideally, be based on a schematic model; a theory. I understand something, scientifically, when my predictions are true, to within some acceptable margin for error.

In a way, I would like to broaden the meaning of "understanding" to accommodate what most of us mean when we say "understood." We live in a time of radical mistrust of authority, which must relate at least a bit to the complexity of elite theorizing. I think that the cosmos may be rather simpler than the experts let on. I continue to believe that this reconceptualization will be good for us all. And by "good" I don't refer to the good life, but rather to life that is good for everyone. A community of man.

But most of us who read at all know that there is this pesky matter of quantum theory, also triggered by Einstein, which prevents, in principle, knowledge about causality beyond certain limits for perception. Indeed, most accepted versions of the theory have it that the investigating subject cannot be removed from the observations; that any attempt to measure - to pin down - what is happening has an impact on the results. Objectivity is dashed beyond a certain scale. 

Now way back when in my youth I was troubled by the twin paradox in classical relativistic physics. In my thought experiment I had to reduce the cosmos to just two elements, each of which would leave the cosmos of the other were they moving relative to each other.

I understand that the paradox has been rubbed out by math, but however those formulations are made, they don't resolve the thought experiment for me. It's trivial to realize that objects in relative motion eventually fall out of touch. But for me, the trouble was that 'out of touch' meant impossible of relation in the direction of what I consider to be 'multiple cosmos solutions' to knotty physics problems. Talk about a violation of the principle of Occam's Razor!

In a material world, there are only forces and objects, and all relative motion must be accountable to those. I surmised that there must be a conceptual relation apart from forces and objects, without which there couldn't be a singular cosmos at all. 

Without forces, these relations are static; they form concepts or ideas. When they change they do so according to the quasi force of emotion. But emotion is an apprehension rather than an imposition. Still, it is real. The shape of a crystal is real and realized over time. It seems to tend in the direction of some idealized geometric form. 

We humans are used to distinguishing natural forms from artifice on the basis of shapes which tend toward ideals, discounting the spirals of the nautilus for their very complexity; their no two the same quality. 

Now here's where my laziness kicks in. I simply don't know what the consensus is about apprehensions of intelligence. I know that the creationists are crazy, but I don't know that the evolutionists care enough about how unlikely evolved "natural" forms are. I differ with their usage for random.

Over enough time, the random processes of evolution begin to look similar to crystallization; as though revealing a kind of hidden structure - the manifestation of an atomic structure "underneath." Might we ourselves not be conceptualized as the manifestation of some latent structure of the cosmos? Something only manifest over time. 

I would maintain that time is directional in either the materialist or the evolutionary sense only as a conspiracy of the whole. Furthermore, there is no purely physical resolution to the conundrum of time's arrow. 

Here I make my lazy leap, that, therefore, time's arrow is a function of the evolution of life. And the attention given for the measurement of quanta, whose existence in a particular locus in space-time as required by an act of measurement, is demonstrably absent prior to the measurement being taken. The "thing" measured demonstrably exists in a measurable, or at least estimable, cloud of probability. There are waveforms which pervade the cosmos, until they are collapsed by impingement.

My own impetus for this kind of thinking was to resolve - or to "understand" - the many "meaningful coincidences" that I, and I suppose all of us, experience in life. It seemed too lazy even for lazy me to attribute these to God. There had to be something missing in our treatment of random. In all things, I took some clues from China.

Probability relates to chance which relates to random. It is my contention that emotion is what turns the attention of the measurer to the object being measured; passionless though those operators of the perceptual apparatuses may seem. I am redefining usage for emotion to where it is never absent and is never just some quality of the higher forms of life. Emotion is apart from, but essential to, the materialistic outlook.

If there is consternation about the weirdness of quantum mechanics, it seems to focus on the absurdity that conscious measurement determines the disposition of reality. Or call it conscious attention. I understand there may be argumentation about whether, and if so how, consciousness might be an aspect of everything. A kind of panconsciousness. Some call it panspiritualism, panpsychism or maybe "analytical idealism" the way that Bernardo Kastrup does.

I'm trying to make this all much simpler. In my understanding (haha!) it is emotion which is pervasive. And emotion is not something that is possessed, any more than forces are. Emotion is a relation, as is force, and it constitutes the apprehension of forceless motion; meaning, really, that there is a correspondence between the motion happening "over there" and something "familiar" toward or away from which it is moving. 

I don't wish to imply that there has to be an apprehender. I'm only trying to distinguish from perception, which is material implication. Emotional implication is what entangles the twins of the twin paradox. A sense of potential oneness. This is also the superposition familiar to researchers in quantum computing. The connection of distant particles, by definition as I'm suggesting, is an emotional connection. 

At the mega scale at which we operate, all that means is that the particles are connected by a "knower." There is no other way to define both the separation and the oneness. Knowledge then consists in a correspondence between models in the mind and models in reality beyond the mind. The match is an emotional match. Reality can't be defined without it. I guess that I must confess that I also don't think "mind" implies a knower. Mind is a distributed quality of matter when that matter takes a form. Mind conceives, while force is required for perception. And exchange of percepts or what we sometimes call gauge bosons (I think).

Or in other other words, the search for strange forces or time un-bound exchange of information is fruitless, and shall forever be. Information theory is strangely agnostic about means of transmission, which makes information seem disembodied, which, of course, it can never be in reality. There has to be something to count; whether "packets" of zeros and ones as transmitted by wifi or ethernet or light pulses or whatever. The information is sent and it is received. In the case of superposition, there is no transmission at all. There is a definition for identity which is far more extensible than the resolution of the twin paradox ever need be.

Well, I guess and suppose that this is all about as clear as mud to you, though it is as limpid as ether to me. I remain convinced that this shift to understanding can and will make a difference, and that it is as inevitable as Einstein's part I. Part II is where we neutralize the power of the bomb because we realize that it is only love which is holding it all together. No matter what the Right Wingers tell themselves, truth does matter. A lot. 

Let's start telling it.

Interregnum: Grey Gardens and Pale Fire

You will recognize by tortured non-native English my affinity for Nabokov, who is quite unreadable in Pale Fire. I depended on meme-literate offspring for the existence of Grey Gardens (I watched all three renditions). But it is by the strange happenstance which orchestrates all our lives that I witnessed and read both renditions, gape-mouthed, within a very short interval. 

It is strange that either of these works existed in the first place, and stranger still that they have survived. I could say the same about myself.

I won't recommend the works, mainly because of each their obstinate impenetrability. And yet they were fun for their makers, who must all have felt no choice in the matter once it began. The creative world of media was certainly strange during my childhood. Stranger even than now.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Really Big Picture

Across the span of my lifetime, things have changed with almost breathtaking speed. My tendency, which must be the tendency of most everyone as they grow older, is to disparage the changes. So I have all these possibly fake memories about how workers once took pride in their work, and devoted themselves to a lifetime craft. I remember my own jarring discovery in my youth on a bicycle, that each city looked like any other with the same ugly shopping strips sporting the same ugly shops and bright neon-analog touts.

I've watched and tasted good local eateries replaced by automated franchise outlets, and national brand-names supplant local trusted merchants. I grew up in a house with a fallout shelter, and I remember "helping" to build it. World War II replayed incessantly across the same television networks which helped me cheer our arrival on the moon.

Or, in other words my upbringing left me blind to racism, sexism, ghettos of poverty, except in retrospect. I was insulated from deficits in health standards or building standards or how much industry was changing and despoiling the landscape. Until Lake Erie died, which changed the course of my entire life.

By the time I was a conscious adult, computers had already infested banking and supply chains and would soon infest education and commerce more generally.

Now, on a macro scale we see any and all kinds of trust dissolving into an unholy mess of conspiracy theorizing. I know it's attraction. I remember reading about the Bildebergers in a tract out in the territory where Bo Gritz was as prominent as Jesus Saves billboards. I could feel the panic and outrage as it fitted itself to my doubts. Somehow now the billboards and the tracts have become coarser and even further removed from reality. How quaint it is really, that it was a Google divorcee who funded the bizarre retro respiriting of JFK with the likeness of his nephew. The flaw not quite being the nutty nephew, but rather the already weird and unreal conception we've all inherited about JFK himself. 

Judging by how one stream of filmic zeitgeist has developed, many of us are transfixed by apocalyptic endings. History can and likely must be jarring in our technological streaming age. It's never the same river anymore, in a way as different from what Heraclites might have meant when he spoke or wrote of flow and change. 

We still think that at least a part of the change has included improvements to understanding, to knowledge, to security, and even to decency. If things are not getting better that must be because of a moral failing. Indeed it is.

Like a ski jumper, there can be no doubt that my life has spanned the end of the geometric curve which represents the scientific and industrial revolutions. Guilty! Any sort of geometric curve ends not in quasi-parallel trajectories to eternity. It ends in explosion. It ends in a leap.

I hope for an explosion of consciousness, let us pray.

So many people now apologize for Trump by calling him honest, honorable, not part of the swamp. We crave a moral compass now that we accept unvarnished appetite for the way an honest honorable and clean person should behave. 

Others challenge you to find an honest or decent politician anywhere. When did that become a proper defense for the moral vacancy now in ascendance on the Republican side of the aisle?

Anyhow, the thing about all understanding and knowledge is that it must build within a kind of master cultural narrative. The feeling of understanding is really the pleasant feeling of meshing with the larger understanding; our cultural zeitgeist. One person's understanding, these days, is another person's woo woo conspiracy theory, or religious dementia, or depraved hedonism. 

The kinds of Kuhnian shifts which really change our minds are at least analogous to cultural clashes. At least that jarring. 

Now we seem to have fragmented into a kind of heaving swamp of mini-cultures clashing in ways as subtle, changeable and confusing as what the world looks like through a kaleidoscope, without the wonder.

What could possibly bring us back together, now that commerce is the only thing which can truly define the overall appearance of our living landscape. Commerce based on wants and needs which start with food, shelter and community and end with abstracted lusts for those same things writ larger and larger and more and more complex. How much of our enthusiasm do we spend anymore on things that really count. Do we even spend a relative dime on sustainable permanence? Should we?

Or are we locked into a collective supposition that we can collectively achieve a kind of perfection in our systems? A supposition which seems indistinguishable from driving over a cliff in a mad paroxysm or joy at the ride. 

When we despair about "biodiversity" we've reduced the earth to a matter of complexity. By some measures, our complexity has increased, especially if you're focused on data, which is a focus on tabulation which is a focus on a false information theory based misapprehension of intelligence. What we obviously need are sets of better metaphors. To fret about biodiversity is to ignore the possibility that the destruction is equivalent - and I do mean morally equivalent - to the destruction of each of our own bodies. We are killing ourselves for the sake of dead metaphors. 

Frankly, we're doing it because we're having too much fun. We dance on earth's corpse. 


Well, I started this quest by the instigation of meaningful coincidence, or what Meghan O'Gieblyn calls "doublings." I felt at the time - when I was a younger man - that I'd figured it all out. I have to confess that while I may be wiser, like Joe Biden, I may have lost some acuity. I can't quite bring back that Eureka! sense. 

I had something to do with a basic realization about the structure of the cosmos, and I know that it didn't challenge any of our materialistic certainties. It only drew limits around them. Those limits were fundamentally premised on the "function" of chance in reality. Not just in genetics, where it might be almost obvious, but in our daily lives. I experienced a kind of euphoric sense of amplification of the quite ordinary observation that most of what determines who and what we are is not a predicable function of material reality, but rather a complex interaction among more factors than we can catalog. Emotion defines the thrust of those factors, just as emotion defines how we make our decisions, rational or otherwise.

The essence that I have retained is that there is a more expansive definition for emotion than the limited and limiting one we intuit in our naive - as in "naive physics" - ways for making sense. When we despair of our destruction of biologic diversity, we also, at the same time, arrogate to ourselves the obligation to make it right, which goes right along with our guilt for the destruction.

We are simply not that important, and all of our metaphors, dead or alive, have it that we are of cosmic importance. We've refined that to some measure for "intelligence" which is the thing we hang our collective hat on. As though that were the core function of evolution and of life.

Well, I do declare that our naive understanding for intelligence is indeed an important aspect of life's evolution. But we should hardly omit the certainty that earth will not go quietly into the dark night of eternal nothingness. The totality of life on the planet is not in accord with our contemporary notions about what intelligent life is doing. On the scale of politics, we have obviously demonstrated most our idiocy as stewards of anything at all. 

Borrowing mildly from Chinese, as I often do, intelligence without what in the West is referred to as heart is not intelligence at all. When we put orgasmic irresponsible thrilling performances of love front and center in the guise of triumph, success, and performative joy, we are ignoring and not embracing love. To say this sort of thing will not make me a popular fellow. I'm positively anti-economic thrusting. We have to cut it out.


We have to stop searching for any postscriptum to the standard model of physics. It's no longer about force and particles. There are force-free conceptual relations which compose the structure of eternal ideas, though I don't quite mean what Plato meant (the first real book, honest, that I ever did read was Plato's Republic). 

The ideas I refer to are not eternally static. They move, and that motion is what emotion describes. Before Apple patented the i- prefix, I was already calling it e-motion, just as a kind of joke on what we're most proud of.

Well, I might be signing off for good. I'm getting too old to make good arguments, and nobody is paying any attention anyhow. 


I must repair my house and car. It didn't use to hurt so much.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Super Bowl Predictions

Just like Tracy Chapman, ha, I drive around in my old car. Too much money going into it after too many miles. But it's a stick shift and has no interest in guiding my driving. I scoured the universe and there are no more manual transmissions on the market. And I've had it with rehash of someone else's driving habits being pawned off against my own concocted penury.

A tipping point for me. Driving is dead and so should car culture be. Buying electric is a vote for a future I don't even remotely want. I want my city back from Robert Moses, and don't we all now? Vegas can't even do Formula One right!

I wrote about eating at the restaurant at the end of the world, the one which targets the inhabitants of Mcmansions. All of whom spend at least some time in Vegas. What were we thinking? Let gambling in and the NFL will be better? Richer, sure, but . . .

I went to Vegas once and it was mind-blowing. Never have I been so panicked than when crammed by a funneled crowd of strollers at a choke point in the storied sunset walk though and past all the competitive free shows.

If TayTay were performing at half-time it couldn't be more over the carrot top who might yet be our president again. His swan song will be to impersonate Elvis let us pray. What are the odds. Haven't we invited in all the terrorists of the planet for this one? How will it start and how will it end. Will anyone even notice what is being kicked off?

The only places I would still like to drive anymore are in the flyover realms off season. I would like a walkable city with parking at its perimeter and plenty of convenient mass transit thank you very much. Bicycles a-plenty where all the beefy guys are nice.

I will watch on a wall-sized low-res projection, even as TV prices still incredibly drop. I will make wings in Buffalo, coals to Newcastle, over the airwaves. Missing Hunter S. as my wheels are already smoking, my engines belching fire over which rainbow reboot? He shot himself for what?

Anyhow, what's being kicked off is the end of this whole mess. Everything reverts to local, where there actually do remain politicians who are public servants, and who knows, maybe we'll stop paying attention to the global once the media starts its inevitable crumbling now that the interconnections exceed the actual knowledge to keep it all going and safe and worth interacting with. Now that everywhere is pretty much the same.

Let's start with the Post Office, how about, located at the very origin of our brand of capitalism, and put Facebook back where it belongs there. Separate out the product from its delivery again. We'll devolve expertise back local as well. Prices will recalibrate with working class wages and nobody will abide the megawealth of sports or media superstars because what's that all got to do with me.

I like my music live in intimate venues. Welcome back, Buffalo, and may the Super Bowl recede from importance in all of our recollectivism of community activism. Don't come rushing in to where we'll have drinkable water without climate catastrophe for a lot longer than you will. We will dig ourselves out from our automobile destruction a lot more quickly than you will, by hand if necessary, without the panic of New York City.

Vegas will melt down from desert heat. The coasts will be inundated. It's a sign that many of you will find us during the eclipse. Darkness at Noon. Ish. A sign of the times. Groucho not Karl, we shall move beyond the twin models for totalizing labor at the expense of real work. Real human work. MAGA. Communism. Same thing. Whatever.

Any end is always a beginning. Go Bills!

* * *

Well, for sure the Bills didn't win. I was rooting for the Chiefs despite TayTay, and they did their end thing in then end, which maybe we'll learn by next year. I'm keeping my old car, I guess, no matter the cost. It's my service for the sake of the world and so that I don't hate driving. 

It's interesting how much infrastructure can be destroyed how quickly, in Ukraine or in Gaza say. So it's a good thing that our world is now built of cardboard? Has that been the plan all along? Build it and they will come to burn it down. And then we can reinstate, as it were, our art. Reclaim beauty as a public good. Find a way actually to know our neighbors and talk to them. Let go of guilt and outrage both, because they tend so much to become their opposite which never seems to resolve in the direction of love.

I don't know. A bunch of the family went to Niagara Falls the day before the Super Bowl, indulgently and somewhat embarrassingly crowding around my wonderful granddaughter as she was treated to the aquarium. A mostly deserted place on the American side, and mostly deserted by Americans as most strollers were speaking other languages. And it was that rare thing for this winter. A sunny day.

Who knows why the ice boom was put up this year, the first year really in a while that it held back no ice at all. So few years ago it was busted by ice which scraped the low lands bald. 

And as we did with the Peace Bridge, we will debate to death our dire need to rid the city of cars instead of coddling them. Until the car culture dies its natural death, too long after I'm gone for me. So long. The Peace Bridge undercapacity was solved by an obsession with terrorist crossings, making it so unfriendly that casual trips to Canada, by boat or by car, have become too cumbersome to be a pleasure.

The most amazing thing about the Super Bowl was that with tickets costing a minimum of a couple grand, and a maximum of a few hundred K to average 11K a pop, there was a streaker on the field, adverted to carelessly by one of the announcers. What's the backstory to that one? A bet redeemed? An actual football fan who bares his or her chest routinely and spent their entire fortune just to be there? Surely no rich person would risk the attention.

God knows. Yeah right, we all need our comforting fictions. My wings were great!

I do take comfort that wisdom and grace do win out when nature takes its course. We'll get over this because we have to. We shall continue to evolve, like it or no.